Pacific Light

Virginia King was invited by the European Cultural Centre to exhibit during the Venice Biennale, 2019. This is an affirmation of her extensive body of work and position as one of New Zealand’s leading sculptors. 

Over the past thirty years Virginia has created a diverse range of site specific sculpture, commissioned for public locations and private collections. In 1988 after reading a Canadian Ministry for the Environment report on climate change, Virginia resolved to focus her work on environmental concerns.
An Antarctic Artist Fellowship in 1999 was a pivotal experience, with a visit to the spectacular Lake Vanda strengthening her interest in the microsphere. Virginia’s work references marine micro-organisms and foraminifera. By magnifying and abstracting the scale of natural life forms, she draws attention to the beauty, fragility and vulnerability of our environment. Her vessel forms have evolved from symbols of exploration, migration, and nurturing, to become metaphors for life and survival. These works focus on the urgent need for stewardship and conservation of our global environment. 


Phantom Fleet  2017

Conceived to create comparisons between the nautical, botanical and anatomical, the archetypal form suggests boat hulls, and empty seedpods, associated with water and land. The work evokes ancient mythologies and makes reference to environmental migration, endurance, survival and hope.

The suspended vessel of Phantom Fleet implies rising seas, and the urgency of addressing global warming. 

Marine grade 316 stainless steel, laser cut, hand worked and electropolished.

L 3300mm x W 650mm x D 450mm - 850mm

Photo: Sam Hartnett

Tangled Infinities  2019 

Ancient Gorgonian coral forests still exist on the seafloor of the Southern Ocean where they provide sanctuary for all forms of juvenile marine life, providing protection from predators and the strong ocean currents. These coral forests up to 400 years old are being torn from the Southern Ocean floor, during deep sea bottom trawling. To illustrate the impossibility of regrowth of the coral forests Virginia used an archaic method of repairing Lapita Ceramic pottery, drilling and fixing the panels together with copper wire.

‘It is a curious situation that the sea, from which life first came should now be threatened by the activities of one form of that life. But the sea though changed in a sinister way will continue to exist, the threat is rather to life itself…’

Rachel Carson, The Sea Around Us, 1960  

Hoop Pine plywood, copper wire, water jet and hand worked panels, acrylic paint, burnt pigment, and embossed text. 

H 800mm x W 1600mm x D 120mm

Floating Alphabet 2019

The work celebrates Venice as the heart of printing in the fifteenth century, when the Republic of Venice became the centre of the printing industry in Europe. The assemblage of floating letters alludes to the migration of language. Within Floating Language the classical Roman characters echo the characters the Latin quotation PAX TIBI MARC EVAN GELI STA MEVS, carved on the marble tablet beneath the paw of the Lion of Venice,

This performance work was floated in the Canal di Sant’Alvise and photographed and videoed during the Venice Biennale 2019.  The video footage will be available in late 2019.

Hoop pine plywood, natural and artificial fibre, acrylic and oil based stains and embossed text. 

H 3300m x W 1000mm x D. 6mm 

Pacific Radiolaria 2019

Fossil forms of Radiolaria date from the Cambrian era.
The double-sided work references marine protozoa that produce beautiful and intricate silica exoskeletons.
Pacific Radiolaria draws attention to the acidification of the oceans and the threat to marine life dependent on the balance of temperature, salinity and nutrients in the world’s oceans.
Marine grade 316 Stainless steel, hand-worked.

H 1400 x W 1400 x D 150mm tapering

Southern Nautilus 2009

The shell cradle that protects the eggs of the female Southern Nautilus defines the form of Southern Nautilus. The work is inspired by the shell cradle that protects and carries the eggs of the female Paper Nautilus.

The spiralling text is sea sounds, lists of words about the ocean References include places that have influenced Virginia life and the childhood memory of listening to the sea holding a shell to ones ear. The text references navigation, endangered sea life and plunder of the ocean.

Marine grade 316 stainless steel (No. 5 of a series of 8)

H 1400 x W 600mm x D 900mm


Video: Three Decades 

The four minute video covers my practice over the past thirty years, showing the complexity and significance of my work in the Pacific environment and providing context and reference to the work in Venice. Many ephemeral works were filmed in and under the sea, in Antarctica and Hawaii and during other symposia. The works reference marine life and microorganisms, drawing attention to the fragility and vulnerability of our environment. Temporary and site specific commissioned works are included along with vessel forms that have evolved as metaphors for life and survival. The sound track combines evocative music played by three musicians from Aotearoa, playing cello, guitar and flute music, the loop video plays continuously in the exhibition space.

Editing: Baraka

Film and Production: Virginia King

Sound: Includes evocative music played by three musicians from Aotearoa: Heart Strings Duo: Natarani-Cello, Sasha- Guitar and Anu Grace- Flute.